Why I have changed my mind on immigration

I grew up in Southend in the 1950’s and 1960’s and was exposed to few first (or even second) generation immigrants, and the few I did get to meet were usually white. It was only after I went to university that I begin to meet a larger numbers of immigrants, who came to the UK as students to study, with some extending their stay after they graduated. Quite a few I got to know and befriend, and if anything the foreigners I came across were nicer than the white British people who were already here. I was of course aware of pockets in the country where there were a lot of black people living; I was aware for example of people coming from the West Indies to work here and later of an influx of Asians e.g. as a result of Idi Amin policies in Uganda, and of course there was Enoch Powell’s “river of blood” speech, which at the time I disagreed with out of principle.

With regard to the above image, the verse from the Bible quoted is one of many in a similar vein that have influenced my own community activism regarding how I ought to treat foreigners coming into the country. The link to a hypocritical stance toward immigrants by US Christians (and might also add the UK) is both correct and incorrect, but before I get onto that, I need to give some further background that has shaped my own attitude toward immigration and immigrants and has also led to my modifying it in more recent years. It should be noted that the immigrant population of the UK has grown considerably in recent years. In Southend, according to the 2011 census, 16% of its residents are BME (Black and Minority Ethnic). The increase is particularly due to an influx from South Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa, notably Zimbabwe. It is worth noting the Muslim population in a town of 170,000 has grown from 2000 (in 2001) to 3000 (in 2011).

During my working life, I became more aware of BME folk and early on came to a view that their living alongside the indigenous population was a non issue and I generally got along with those I came across. But it was not until the turn of the millennium, when I got a lot more involved in community work, that I began to have a lot more dealings with immigrants, especially first generation and often black and non-Christian. One of my own contributions, which I look back on with pride, is that I helped start a charity called the Southend Community-in-Harmony Partnership and co-ordinated for a number of years its “Big Event” and “Missing Communities” program. I also found myself helping asylum seekers and noted the way some were treated by the British government was appalling, while at the same time they let in economic migrants they need not have let in for dubious ideological reasons. I should also add that I attend a church that has a strong multi-cultural edge and have been married to an amazing black girl for 20 years.

My own philosophy is based on the notions that when foreigners come into the country they do so as guests and while we (the host) should show hospitality, they (the guest) should respect the ways of their host, with hospitality rescinded if they don’t. I recognize also there will come a time that guests may want to become citizens and providing they have earned that right they should be allowed to do so (without undue barriers as is now the case) on the understanding they undertake their obligations as citizens. I believe immigrants need to enter the country legally and where the doubts and extenuating circumstances these need to be dealt with swiftly and with compassion (which is often not the case). I also believe we take in too many immigrants and while some provided a net benefit others do not. I fear some, especially Muslims, are culturally out of tune, and this gives rise to problems (what the likes of Tommy Robinson and Paul Joseph Watson say grate with some, many of their points are valid). The “authorities” too often refuse to address them out of fear and their being beholden to politically correctness.

Regarding Christian hypocrisy, I would like to make a distinction. Regarding who to let in or not let in to the country, there is no obligation in my view to let in any, other that out of humanitarian necessity, natural justice is upheld and providing those who are let in obey the law and discharge their duties as residents on the country. Unpopular as this may be, there is a case to “build the wall” and “ban (some) Muslim immigration”, and that is because the protection of its people is the first responsibility of government. While at the time, I welcomed Obama’s “Daca” decision, I understand why Trump has rescinded it now. I believe this is something the legislature needs to sort out, balancing compassion and common sense etc. What is hypocritical is when we fail to do what God told Moses about treating foreigners in a loving way.

Regarding treating immigrants kindly etc., the view I came to when I was able to come to a view, remains the same. As for immigrants coming into the country, rather than being not a problem as I had once considered, I believe based on some of what I have observed is a problem and you don’t need to be a “deplorable” to say that, which if not addressed will result in catastrophe for my country.


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